FAO/GIEWS Special Report: Crop and Food Supply Situation in Kenya

Kenya's current food supply situation and outlook give cause for serious concern. The long rains season (March-May), which normally accounts for 80 percent of total annual food production, has failed due to a severe drought. With the exception of parts of Western Province and Nyanza Province which received significant amounts of rainfall, the rest of the country, including the "bread basket" Rift Valley Province and Central Province which is normally close to self-sufficiency in food, have received little or no rainfall, leading to widespread crop failures as well as large livestock losses in the pastoral areas of the north, northeast and northwest. The food situation is particularly dire for pastoralists because this is the fourth consecutive rain failure in their areas. The current drought has, therefore, aggravated an already severe scarcity of water and pastures for livestock. The current food crisis in the pastoral areas is the result of a combination of cumulative livestock losses, falling livestock prices and sharply rising cereal prices. Starvation-related deaths, particularly among children, are being reported. The Government has appealed to the international community for assistance to cope with the emergency.

Maize is the main staple food of Kenya, averaging over 80 percent of total cereals (rice, wheat, millet and sorghum). Current official forecasts put the 2000 long rains maize crop at only 1.4 million tonnes, 36 percent lower than the long rains average of 2.21 million tonnes and 22 percent less than the drought-reduced 1999 long rains crop of 1.8 million tonnes. Assuming the 2000 short rains (October-December) harvest at the same level as in 1999, estimated at 450 000 tonnes, total domestic production available for consumption in 2000/2001 amounts to 1.85 million tonnes. Maize stocks are estimated to be depleted at all levels throughout the country. With a national maize utilization requirement (including food, feed, seed, losses) estimated at 3.21 million tonnes, Kenya will need to import some 1.4 million tonnes until the next main harvest in September 2001 (see maize balance sheet below).

Prices of maize are very high and rising, progressively diminishing access to food for the poorer sections of the population. However, with the removal of the high import tariff on maize in mid June, it is hoped that the private sector will cover most of the deficit. Nevertheless, vulnerable people, particularly pastoralists, will not have access to maize on the market and will therefore need food assistance.


2.1 Production in 1999

The long rains of 1999 (March-May) were very variable, both spatially and temporally. Western and Nyanza provinces and the major maize producing areas of Rift Valley Province (the districts of Kericho, Nandi, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu) received normal rains and obtained normal harvests. In the rest of the country, however, including Central Province, Eastern Province, North Eastern Province, northern parts of Rift Valley Province and Coast Province, rainfall was below normal, resulting in significantly reduced harvest. Total production of maize and beans was estimated at 1.8 million tonnes and 270 000 tonnes respectively. While the bean harvest was close normal, the maize harvest was 20 percent below the long rains average.

The short rains season (October-December), which accounts for around 20 percent of annual cereal output, is the main season for the arid and semi-arid pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of the north, northwest and northeast, as well as for the marginal agricultural areas in the east and south. The 1999 short rains started late and were insufficient in many areas for crop production and pasture growth and for adequate replenishment of water supplies, particularly for livestock. The worst affected districts included Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Garissa, Wajir, Moyale and Mandera (arid and semi-arid pastoral areas), as well as Tharaka, Mbeere, Mwingi, Machakos, Makueni and Tana River (marginal agricultural areas).

Total maize production in 1999 has been estimated at 2.25 million tonnes compared to 2.44 million tonnes in 1998 (-8%) and 2.7 million tonnes average of the previous 5 years (-17%).

2.2 Long Rains Production in 2000

The main season of 2000 - the long rains (March-May) - has largely failed. There was a false start in mid-April (late by a whole month) with sporadic showers in many areas but they petered out by the end of the month, except in the west and along the Indian Ocean coast where precipitation has been significant but patchy. Area planted to maize with the April showers is estimated at 79 percent of long rains average, but the crop has dried up in most areas, including in Kenya's bread basket, the Rift Valley Province, and the high-potential Central Province which is normally close to self-sufficiency in food. As a result, maize production from the current season is provisionally estimated at 1.4 million tonnes, around 64 percent of the normal long rains harvest, but the final outcome could be significantly lower.


3.1 Food Prices and Access to Food

Maize prices throughout the country have been rising since January 1999, reflecting growing maize shortages. Between January and July 1999, retail maize prices in three major consuming centres, Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu, rose by 91 percent, 98 percent and 75 percent, respectively, before easing slightly in September/October with the arrival of the new maize crop on the market. However, they have resumed their upward trend (Figure 1). By May 2000 they were close to the high levels of July 1999 and still rising. This is seriously hurting the poorer sections of the Kenyan population whose access to food is increasingly being curtailed.

Figure 1: Kenya - Maize Prices 1998-2000, Ksh per 90kg bag

Source: Marketing Information Branch (MIB), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

The situation is most alarming in the pastoral areas. Livestock losses, plummeting livestock prices due to the poor state of the animals, and the high and rising grain prices have combined to precipitate a grave food crisis for the pastoral households. With four successive droughts, household economies have collapsed and coping mechanisms have been exhausted, leading to destitution and reported starvation-related deaths, particularly among children. There are also reports of increasing inter-ethnic armed conflicts over scarce water and pasture resources.

3.2 Maize Supply/Demand Balance, 2000/2001 (October-September)

Estimation of Kenya's maize supply and demand for marketing year 2000/2001 (October-September) is based on the following parameters and assumptions:

total population of 30.85 million as at March 2001;
total maize production of 1.85 million tonnes (long rains 2000: 1.4m; short rains 2000: 0.45m tonnes);
per caput maize consumption of 97 kg/year;
negligible maize stocks at all levels;
feed use at 2 percent of production
other uses including seed and losses at 10 percent1
Kenya: Maize Supply/Demand Balance for 2000/2001 (000 tonnes)
Population: 30.85 million

Domestic Availability
1 850
Opening stocks
1 850
3 214
Food use
2 992
Feed use
Other uses and losses
Import requirement
1 364

The table shows an import requirement of around 1.4 million tonnes. The rapidly rising maize prices in the country have been in response to a growing maize shortage. Commercial imports have not flowed in as would have been expected largely because of a high tariff rate of 75 percent on imported maize. However, with the removal of the tariff in mid June, it is expected that the private sector will import maize to bridge much of the supply/demand gap.

Source: FAO

Kenya has a sophisticated private sector with the necessary experience and resources to do the job. As Figure 2 shows, the private sector has imported over 1 million tonnes before (1996, 1997) when the right incentives were provided by the Government.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): GIEWS1@FAO.ORG) for further information if required.

1 The 1996 FAO/WFP Mission assumed 16% but it is assumed here that with sharply reduced production, households will try to minimize losses. The same applies to feed, which was assumed at 4 %.